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How the U.S. Open Cup set Mark Briggs on the path to 100 USL coaching victories

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/03/24, 2:30PM EDT


Run in 2016 as first-year coach in Wilmington that saw side battle Real Salt Lake opened doors for current success

Sacramento Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs was presented a commemorative jersey after earning his 100th coaching victory in the USL Championship against Loudoun United FC on April 27. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

With Sacramento Republic FC’s 3-1 victory on April 27 against Loudoun United FC, Mark Briggs became only the third Head Coach to record 100 victories across the regular season and playoffs in the USL Championship era.

If not for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, however, there’s the possibility Briggs might never have achieved that landmark.

In 2016, Briggs was in his first year as a head coach at Wilmington Hammerheads FC, a club he had previously represented as a player and led to the 2012 USL Championship Final. The Hammerheads narrowly missed out on a place in the postseason, but the club’s success that year in the Open Cup set the path for Briggs’ future.

“We had a good run in the Open Cup that year,” Briggs told this week. “We’d beat Miami when [former Italian international Alessandro] Nesta was the coach and they were spending a lot of money, which gave us the opportunity to go to Real Salt Lake. We tied 2-2 and then lost on penalties, but we should have won the game. We gave a very good account of ourselves.

“As I was leaving the stadium at Rio Tinto, Craig Waibel – their then Sporting Director, now at Seattle – just asked to have a chat with me. They had heard that for Wilmington, it was their last season, and they wanted to know if I’d be interested in going to Salt Lake.”

Briggs joined Real Monarchs SLC’s staff that offseason, initially as an assistant coach to Mike Petke before Petke was promoted to Real Salt Lake’s Head Coach one game into the Monarchs’ season. From there, Briggs led the Monarchs to the 2017 Championship Players’ Shield and won the league’s Coach of the Year award, before stepping away midway through the following campaign.

His resume brought him to Sacramento’s Academy in 2019, and the following year he was promoted to become Republic FC’s Head Coach. Since then, Briggs has become the winningest coach in Republic FC history while leading the side to both the final of the Open Cup in 2022 – becoming the first lower-division club to do so in more than a decade – and to the top of the Western Conference last season.

For the 42-year-old, reaching a landmark only previously achieved in the Championship era by current Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Head Coach Bob Lilley and Charleston Battery legend Mike Anhaeuser is a moment that couldn’t have come about without the support of his family.

Mark Briggs during Real Monarchs SLC's celebration after clinching the USL Championship's Players' Shield in 2017. | Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC

“When you when you read about it, or when you’re asked questions about it, it’s obviously something that’s nice for myself and my family,” said Briggs. “And I’ve got to mention my wife, because without my wife and the support she gives me, that allows me to do my job. That’s allowed me to essentially generate the wins I have. That support is completely critical and vital, and I obviously extremely appreciate that.”

It also illustrates how far Briggs has come in the coaching ranks, as well as the opportunity the Open Cup continues to offer for coaches, players and clubs to make a name for themselves in the historic tournament.

As Sacramento enters this year’s tournament at home to Monterey Bay F.C. in the Round of 32 next Tuesday night at Heart Health Park, Briggs believes that’s a major part of what makes the tournament matter each year.

“I think it’s an opportunity for players, coaches, for ownership, for everybody to give a good account of themselves,” he said. “Whether it’s giving a good account of themselves as a club, on a national stage, whether it’s a player having a performance that shows he can perform at a higher level, or it’s a coach whose team plays well, he makes smart decisions and he opens eyes for people at a higher level.

“I think that's one of the beautiful things about the Open Cup. It gives you a stage to showcase yourself.”

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